MAPLEWOOD, New Jersey (Reuters) - At home Monday on his sixth canceled school day after superstorm Sandy, New Jersey middle schooler Liam Kafrissen leapt at the offer: $20 per walk to the gas station to stand in line and fill a neighbor’s gas cans.
Pulling a little red wagon with three gas cans totaling 5.75 gallons, Kafrissen smiled on his second trip back from the Delta gas station close to his school, still shut without power as the rest of hard-hit New Jersey crawled back to life.
“And I‘m still in my pajamas!” Kafrissen, 13, said as he handed off the cans to a neighbor to pour into her car’s empty gas tank.
Cars in the gas line at the Delta station averaged a two-hour wait as police officers checked to be sure drivers complied with Governor Chris Christie’s gas rationing scheme allowing only those with license plates ending in odd numbers to gas up on odd calendar days like November 5.
People standing in line with hand-held cans - some because they had too little gas in their cars to wait in the line and others to get around the odd-even rationing or to get generator fuel - waited 20 minutes.
“This is my fourth time in line today and I’ll be back a few more times,” said Tommy Donaldson, 35, of West Orange, New Jersey, an enrichment director at Maplewood’s YMCA, clutching the 2.5-gallon can that he used to gas up his car and those of his co-workers.
One of them, Alexandra Nicholson, 21, said even though her car’s gas gauge showed the tank was empty, she had to drive to the Y on Monday to hold onto her job.
“I needed to get to work today so I took a very big risk - I was on ‘E’ coming here,” Nicholson said.
Most of those standing in line were using the handheld cans for their cars rather than for gas generators, even as PSE&G fell short of meeting a promise to bring power back to chilly homes in Maplewood on Sunday, pushing back the pledge to later in the week.
“Today, I‘m slumming it as a gas collector,” said lawyer Aisha Charles, 37, of Maplewood as she carried her gas can home to one of the few houses that did not lose power - and therefore became a haven for six friends and family who moved in to share the warmth.
As for Kafrissen, who is in eighth grade, he soon enough settled back onto the couch for another school day off - fun a week ago but “boring and annoying” by day six - as his mother used a kitchen baking funnel to help the neighbor pour gas from the cans into her car.
Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Cynthia Osterman